This mum is using her maternity leave to travel the world – for the second time

Travel mad mum

Yep, you read that right. Rather than being stuck at home for a whole year drowning in nappies, London nurse Karen Edwards has packed up her little family and headed for the skies! And we’re all a little jelly and inspired by her at the same time.

She’s not rich

When I first heard of the mum-of-two using her maternity leave to travel with her four-month-old baby son, Quinn and three-year-old daughter Esme, I just assumed her and her husband must be loaded, because really, who can afford to do that?!

But they’re not. In fact both have humble jobs. Karen is a nurse and her equally travel mad hubby, Shaun is a builder. 

GUATEMALA BLOG POST- I wrote a guide to Lake Atitlan (Link in bio)… Such an awesome little place with vibrant colourful villages and picturesque volcanoes. If you watch our Instagram stories, you are probably wondering why we came back to the US. We touched down in Miami late last night and we are going to be tripping around Florida for the next 9 days. Don’t worry we are not done with Central America just yet we will pick up again in Nicaragua in a few weeks. We thought we would utilise our time in Miami to see the area before we head on our @msccruisesofficial around the Caribbean!!! We are so excited as I am a total cruise virgin! It was an opportunity not to be missed hence us backtracking to the US again .. Florida is already exceeding all our expectations … possibly one of the best places for kids ever?! .. We are staying in a little apartment @caribbeanresortbytheocean .. it’s refreshing to be able to cook for ourselves .. we are foot steps from the beach, splash fountains and a playground for Esmé…needless to say she is very excitable at the moment Ps… we had a nice little feature in @abcnews this morning .. see our insta stories for the link … 💜✈️🌎

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So how do they do it?

This isn’t the first time Karen and Shaun have hit the road with a new baby. The first time they did it was when Karen was on maternity leave with Esme, blogging about their adventures at Travelmadmum.

“I am a nurse in the UK and I am very lucky to be allowed to take a year off work,” Karen wrote on Instagram. “It’s not all paid, but quite a lot of it is.”

“We rented our house out when Quinn was nine weeks old. This time is different, especially with three-year-old Esmé,” Karen writes, revealing that thanks to the success of her travel blog she’s been able to score free accommodation along the way in exchange for hotel reviews on her blog.

“First time around we did it all out of our own pocket. This time is a little different since we have a successful blog, many hotels like us to write a review for them. That is more than we could ever have dreamed of.”

The world is their oyster 

So far the little family of four have explored Canada, road-tripped their way across the entire US west coast and are currently checking out Central America. 

I thought I should say HI to all our new followers and bring you up to date on our family. Especially if you read the story in The Independent today! We are a family of four, I’m Karen and hubby Shaun is @travelmaddad … We have two kids, Esmé aged 3 and Quinn is 4.5months old. When we had Esmé, ‘we used my maternity leave to travel around the world and we’ve done exactly the same with our son Quinn. I am a nurse in the UK and I am very lucky to be allowed to take a year off work. It’s not all paid but quite a lot of it is!… We rented our house out when Quinn was 9 weeks old and sold all of our belongings to make it happen on my maternity leave. This time is different, especially with 3 old Esmé… let’s just say we have our hands full with all her energy! When we left home, we travelled from Calgary to Vancouver in Canada and road tripped the entire west coast of the USA. We’ve since been exploring Central America and arrived in El Salvador this morning. So as you can see we’ve come a long way from when I had Esmé… Here we share all our stories. The good, the bad and the ugly. We like to keep it real and not sugar coat full time travel with two kids… it is amazing and I wouldn’t change it for the world… But.. we have bad days too of messed up travel schedules, missed buses, lost luggage, crazy toddler tantys and a sick baby in the back arse of no where… It’s totally worth it for the endless family time we have together and as a second time new Mum, I’m very grateful to have @travelmaddad around every day. We are not rich. Like I mentioned I’m a nurse and my hubby is a builder. I like to think we are savvy travellers. First time around we did it all out of our own pocket. This time is a little different since we have a successful blog, many hotels like us to write a review for them. That is more than we could ever have dreamed of. We semi have the potential to make this our little business and that’s genuinely because of this engaged audience. None of this would be possible without having interested followers, so thanks so much from me to you for following our journey. I hope we can inspire you to travel deeper with your kids💜✈️🌎

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This is one of the cute villages around late Atitlan… Those little tuk tuks rip around the streets, up hills and along dirt tracks. It’s pretty impressive.. The streets are lined with little stalls, all of them have oodles of colourful textiles. Not to mention the cute cafes and many tortilla stalls. Latin America eat your heart out!!.. it was such a pleasure to collaborate with @hoteltoliman whilst we were there. They give SO much back to the community. Like so many things. They have a house for women fleeing domestic violence and they allow kids with physical disabilities to have their weekly therapy in the pool. The lady that owns it is the most intriguing Guatemalan women. She has done so much voluntary work in her life .. I can’t wait to do the write-up.. 💜✈️🌎 would you visit Lake Atitlan?

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What about routine and sleep needs?

When I first become a new mum, I spent way too much time stressing over my baby’s sleep and trying to instil a routine, because isn’t that the key to coping? I also remember feeling very lonely at times and also overwhelmed. That first year was amazing, but it was also tough as hell.

For Karen though, becoming a new parent abroad on her first family adventure with Esme has helped her adjust to motherhood. 

“We had two parents looking after one baby the whole year and I think that if I was to sit at home it would’ve been incredibly lonely,” she said in an interview with HuffPOst UK.

“I was distracted and I always had help – life didn’t change drastically for me.”

As for juggling the different needs of a preschooler and baby while on the road, Karen says she doesn’t want to sugar coat it on her blog.

“It is amazing and I wouldn’t change it for the world … but … we have bad days too of messed up travel schedules, missed buses, lost luggage, crazy toddler tantys and a sick baby in the back arse of no where … It’s totally worth it for the endless family time we have together and as a second time new mum, I’m very grateful to have @travelmaddad around every day,” she writes on her blog.

THESE TWO… as our time in Belize draws to a close, I’ve been reflecting …. We were travelling full steam ahead in Canada / US and it was quite hectic to say the least … We’ve had some really relaxing down time here in Belize … I might be covered from head to toe in mozzie bites and have a hefty graze on my leg from my epic fall but we are all really happy and rested… Today we went on a snorkelling and island hopping excursion, stopping for lunch at this awesome spot… Our hotel @belizeandreamsresort is directly the other side of the water and this is their sister hotel… a small island covered in white sand, palm trees and a tropical beach… the kind you see on movies …. Snapping back to reality we have a three hour journey tomorrow to our last stop in Belize .. 💜✈️🌎 #travelmadfam ✈️ hosted

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We are kinda loving this #vanlife 💜✈️🌎🚍#jucyusa hosted

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The adventure doesn’t have to stop

For most of us, the travel adventures stop or at least are on hold for a while when we have kids. But Karen challenges us not to think this way. On her blog she writes:

“Travelling the world may seem off limits to most new parents. However, it does not have to be that way. ‘Travel Mad Mum’ aims to inspire other parents with personal experience, factual information and top tips for travelling with little ones.”

“The biggest message I would love to send to parents is that your travelling lifestyle does not have to end when you start a family. Travelling is an incredible way to bond as a family, introduce your child to a variety of sights, smells and sounds and prepare them for a life surrounded by other cultures.”

Here we are at our last stop in BELIZE @cottontreelodge. If you want a TRUE JUNGLE ECO experience, this is the place to be. Warning it’s not for people who can’t deal with creepy crawlies, being disconnected from the rest of the world or those wanting to use a hair straightener. It IS for those, that want to sleep close enough to wildlife you can hear it all night. No joke when I first got into bed under our mosquito net last night I thought … damn there are quite a few creatures around … Once we turned off the light, I had a really deep relaxing sleep… our little cabana is open but has a mosquito mesh all around it… so it very much feels like we are right in amongst nature. The river is almost running under our cabana that is on stilts and we can hear birds, rain dropping and ..monkeys… it’s like one of those meditation CD’s that plays at a spa, accept it’s real!… These hammocks are SUPER comfortable… 💜✈️🌎 hosted

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She’s not alone

Karen isn’t alone in having itchy feet after children arrive. Babyology writer Grace Koelma has been travelling the world with her cute tot Leo for the last eight months. Grace and her hubby are what she describes as ‘digital nomads,’ working in online jobs that don’t require them to stay put in any one place. And little Leo is thriving from the experience. He doesn’t carry many toys with him because he’s learnt how to play without them, and really, the world is his playground!

I don’t know about you, but I’m inspired by (and maybe a tad jealous of) mums like Karen and Grace. It must be hard to travel with little ones, but also so wonderful. 

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